Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo is “king of the entertainers” in Opera North’s Carmen, conducted by Garry Walker in his debut as Music Director

5 October 2021

2 October saw the opening of Opera North’s 2021/22 season at Leeds Grand Theatre with a new production of Carmen, directed by Edward Dick and conducted by Garry Walker in his debut as the company’s Music Director. Phillip Rhodes returns to the company as Escamillo, a role he has previously sung for the Royal Opera House, Welsh National Opera and The Grange Festival. Both artists’ performances have been well received:

“Bizet’s tuneful score is punchily played by the Opera North orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker.”
“King of the entertainers is Phillip Rhodes’s Elvis-like Escamillo, arriving on a bucking bronco to sing the Toreador Song with swagger.”
Rebecca Franks, The Times ****
"Opera North’s splendid orchestra and chorus are on top form under their new music director, the Scotsman Garry Walker, who clearly relishes Bizet’s “Spanish” dance rhythms, unforgettable melodies and brilliant orchestration."
"Phillip Rhodes is an ostentatiously macho Toreador [...] splendid at the top — Escamillo is the trickiest role in the opera"
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times
“Garry Walker gets his music directorship off to a good start, whipping the orchestra through Bizet’s glorious tunes and getting real richness from the strings especially.”
“...it’s solidly cast: last-minute stand-in Erin Caves brings an incisive tenor to Don José, Phillip Rhodes is the testosterone-driven Escamillo – either a rodeo rider or a country and western singer, perhaps both – and Camila Titinger’s soft-toned Micaëla has power where it counts.”
Erica Jeal, The Guardian ****
"Phillip Rhodes is bold as brass as Escamillo."
"Conducting his first opera as Opera North’s new music director, Garry Walker delivers the musical goods in spades."
George Hall, The Stage ****
"...in the pit the ever-excellent Opera North orchestra sounds splendid in Garry Walker’s first production as music director, relishing Bizet’s superb orchestration and giving exactly the right rhythmic lift to this great, immortal score."
Nicholas Kenyon, The Telegraph
“Of the four principals only Phillip Rhodes’ Escamillo – rising above having to do the Toreador’s Song as Elvis – consistently satisfies with his smooth singing and a swagger that never goes too far...”
“Under Garry Walker the orchestra has the necessary fire and delicacy.”
Ron Simpson, The Reviews Hub
"Garry Walker’s pacing and balance of this and every dramatic confrontation is impeccable. Walker and the Orchestra of Opera North makes Bizet’s glorious musical score sounds as if the ink had barely dried. The pristine freshness of winds and strings in the lovely En’tracte to Act 3 exemplifies this composer’s genius for creating myriad colours with economy of means."
"Phillip Rhodes’s powerful Escamillo..."
Geoffrey Mogridge, Ilkley Gazette

Opera North's autumn run of Carmen continues until 19 November, with performances in Leeds, Newcastle, Salford, Nottingham and Hull. Read more about the production here.

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

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